Three cheating girlfriends in a row have given skateboarder Brennan Cross the same excuse: he wasn’t meeting their needs. Desperate and humiliated, he goes to the professionals at the local sex shop for advice.
Zafir Hamady, a sales clerk at Red Hot Bluewater, has an unusual theory: he doesn’t think Brennan is a bad lover. In fact, he doesn’t think Brennan is heterosexual. Or sexual at all, for that matter. He also can’t stop thinking about Brennan. But even if he’s right and Brennan really is asexual, that doesn’t mean Zafir has a chance. Brennan’s never dated a man, and Zafir’s never met anyone who’s game for a Muslim single father with a smart mouth and a GED.
Brennan’s always thought of himself as straight. But when sex is explicitly out of the mix, he finds himself drawn to Zafir for the qualities and interests they share. And Zafir can’t help enjoying Brennan’s company and the growing bond between Brennan and his son. They work well together, but with so many issues between them, doubts creep in, and Brennan’s struggle with his identity could push away the one person he didn’t know he could love.
All the Wrong Places was an outstanding read for me. In fact, I fear that I will not do it justice in my review, that’s how much I loved this book. I love romances that both entertain and educate, and this one definitely fit that bill. Those readers who are looking for a steamy m/m read probably won’t enjoy this addition to the Bluewater Bay series as much because while it is a romance, it is more about Brennan coming to terms with his sexuality – asexuality – and what it means for his future happiness. With that said, if you are a reader who can enjoy a romance in the absence of sex and enjoys a story that focuses on the characters’ journey of self-discovery, then you might want to give it a look.
When Brennan’s third girlfriend in a row cheats on him, he seeks out “professional advice” via the salesperson at a local sex shop. Because Brennan is in a state of extreme stress and vulnerability, he ends up answering some rather personal questions far more openly than he otherwise would have. Interestingly enough, Zafir recognizes himself is several of Brennan’s answers and gently suggests that Brennan’s issue may not be a matter of skill, but rather that he is asexual. Not surprisingly, this news throws Brennan for a loop and he pretty much hauls butt out of there as fast as he can. But as Brennan ponders what Zafir said during their conversation, he begins looking into asexuality and, realizing he’s way over his head with the amount of information on the internet, he asks Zafir for advice and guidance. Being as Zafir has yet to meet another ace in Bluewater Bay, he is more than happy to help Brennan out, and thus begins their friendship. As friends do, Brennan and Zafir become important in one another’s lives, hanging out when their schedules allow, Brennan giving Zafir’s son, Tariq, skateboarding lessons, grabbing lunch together when their work schedules overlap, going to the movies, and so on and so on. They become so enmeshed in each other’s lives that when Tariq asks his dad if Brennan is his boyfriend, the idea only scares Zafir because Brennan considered himself heterosexual before accepting that he was actually asexual. As a biromantic asexual, Zafir wonders if he can hope for more than just friendship with Brennan. When the subject comes up and the men begin officially dating, Zafir worries what it will mean for his son if a romantic relationship with Brennan doesn’t work out. And when a person from Brennan’s past puts in their two cents about the relationship, Zafir’s fears are heartbreakingly realized as Brennan tries to find his “normal.”
Although I’ve read a handful of romances which feature an asexual main character, this is only the second one I’ve encountered that actually took the time to educate the reader about asexuality and the existence of a spectrum. Because Brennan and Zafir’s asexuality differs from that of the characters I previously encountered, I found their characters fascinating. Some of the information is presented in an informal instructional manner because Zafir is helping Brennan determine where he falls on the spectrum. So through their conversations, I learned more about asexuality alongside Brennan. As I said earlier, this is a journey of self-discovery for Brennan, but Zafir also learns more about himself as well. Brennan’s easy acceptance of Zafir being biromantic, Muslim, a single father, a GED holder, and everything else about himself that has run off potential partners gives Zafir the freedom to just be himself. But the ease with which they moved from being friends to boyfriends is what makes their breakup so devastating for Zafir – and Brennan. I hated that Brennan let someone undermine his self-confidence and trust in Zafir so easily. My heart broke for both men when it happened, and continued to hurt for them when Zafir felt forced to keep his distance from Brennan for Tariq’s sake. In true Gallagher fashion, the author was able to get the guys back on track and pen a perfect Epilogue for Brennan and Tariq. I can only hope that the guys make cameo appearances in future Bluewater Bay books because this is a couple I would really love to see more of in the future.